Universal Exceptionalism in International Law

Bradford, Anu H.; Posner, Eric A.

A trope of international law scholarship is that the United States is an “exceptionalist” nation, one that takes a distinctive (frequently hostile, unilateralist, or hypocritical) stance toward international law. However, all major powers are similarly “exceptionalist,” in the sense that they take distinctive approaches to international law that reflect their values and interests. We illustrate these arguments with discussions of China, the European Union, and the United States. Charges of international-law exceptionalism betray an undefended assumption that one particular view of international law (for scholars, usually the European view) is universally valid.


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Harvard International Law Journal

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December 7, 2015